Imatges de pÓgina
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after which we are tranquilly left to enjoy an eternity-of oblivion. Our very nature is ephemeral : we come like shadows, so depart.” From time to time some benevolent and disinterested compiler endeavours to pluck us from the Lethean gulf, by republishing our best papers under the captivating title of “Beauties of the Magazines," “ Spirit of the modern Essayists,” or some such embalming words; but alas ! like a swimmer in the wide ocean, who attempts to uphold his sinking comrade, he can but give him a few moment's respite, when both sink together in the waters of oblivion. We know what pains have been taken to appropriate Addison's and Steele's respective papers in the Spectator, distinguished only by initials. Deeming my own lucubrations (as what essayist does not?) fully entitled to the same anxious research, I occasionally please myself with dreaming that some future Malone, seated in a library, as I am at this present moment, may take down a surviving volume of the New Monthly, and, naturally curious to ascertain the owner of the initial H, may discover, by ferreting into obituaries and old newspapers, that it actually designates a Mr. Higginbotham, who lies buried in Shoreditch church. Anticipating a handsome monument with a full account of the author, and some pathetic verses by a poetical friend, he hurries to the spot, and after an infinity of groping, assisted by the sexton's spectacles, discovers a flat stone, which, under the customary emblems of a death's head and cross bones, conveys


satisfactory information that the aforesaid Mr. Higginbotham was born on one day and died upon

another. Of all the intervening period, its hopes and fears, its joys and miseries, its verse and prose, not an atom farther can be gleaned. And this it is to be a writer of Ephemerides! Verily, the idea is so disheartening, that I should be tempted to commit some rash act, and perpetrate publication on my own account,

but that I have before my eyes the fate of certain modern Blackmores, impressing upon me the salutary truth, that if we must perish and be forgotten, it is better to die of a monthly essay than an annual epic.

UGLY WOMEN. “ Un homme rencontre une femme, et est choqué de sa laideur; bientôt, si elle n'a pas de prétentions, sa physionomie lui fait oublier les défauts de ses traits, il la trouve aimable, et conçoit qu'on puisse l'aimer; huit jours après il a des espérances, huit jours après on les lui retire, buit jours après il est fou.”

De l'Amour. The ancient inhabitants of Amathus, in the island of Cyprus, were the most celebrated statuaries in the world, which they almost exclusively supplied with gods and goddesses. Every one who had a mind to be in the vogue ordered his deity from those fashionable artists : even Jupiter himself was hardly considered orthodox and worship worthy, unless emanating from the established Pantheon of the Cypriots; and as to Juno, Venus, Minerva, and Diana, it was admitted they had a peculiar knack in their manufacture, and it need hardly be added that they drove a thriving trade in those popular goddesses. But this monopoly was more favourable to · the fortunes than to the happiness of the parties. By constantly straining above humanity, and aspiring to the representation of celestial beauty ; by fostering the enthusiasm of their imaginations in the pursuit of the beau ideal, they acquired a distaste, or at least an indifference, for mortal attractions, and turned up their noses at their fair countrywomen for not being Junos and Minervas. Not one of them equalled the model which had been con: jured up in their minds, and not one of them, consequently, would they deign to notice. At the public games, the women were all huddled together, whispering and looking glum, while the men con

gregated as far from them as possible, discussing the beau ideal. Had they been prosing upon politics, you might have sworn it was an English party, Dancing was extinct, unless the ladies chose to lead out one another ; the priests waxed lank and wobegone for want of the marriage offerings : Hymen's altar was covered with as many cobwebs as a poor's box; successive moons rose and set without a single honeymoon, and the whole island threatened to become an antinuptial colony of bachelors and old maids.

In this emergency, Pygmalion, the most eminent statuary of the place, falling in love with one of his own works, a figure of Diana, which happened to possess the beau ideal in perfection, implored Ve. nús to animate the marble ; and she, as is well known to every person conversant with authentic history, immediately granted his request. So far as this couple were concerned, one would have imagined that the evil was remedied; but alas ! the remedy was worse than the disease. The inodel of excellence was now among them, alive and breathing; the men were perfectly mad, beleaguring the house from morn to night to get a peep at her ; all other women were treated with positive insult, and of course the whole of the female population was possessed by all the Furies. Marmorea (such was the name of the animated statue) was no Diana in the flesh, whatever she might have been in the marble: if the scandalous chronicles of those days may be believed, she hąd more than one favoured lover; certain it is that she was the cause of constant feuds and battles in which many lives were lost, and Pygmalion himself was at last found murdered in the neighbourhood of his own house. The whole island was now on the point of a civil war on account of this philanthropical Helen, when one of her disappointed wooers, in a fit of jealousy, stabbed her to the heart,


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and immediately after threw himself from a high rock into the sea.

Such is the tragedy which would probably be enacting at the present moment, in every country of the world, but for the fortunate circumstance that we have no longer any fixed standard of beauty, real or imaginary, and by a necessary and happy consequence no determinate rule of ugliness. In fact there are no such animals as ugly women, though we still continue to talk of them as we do of harpies, gorgons, and chimeras. There is no deformity that does not find admirers, and no loveliness that is not deemed defective. Anamaboo, the African prince, received so many attentions from a celebrated belle of London, that, in a moment of tenderness, he could not refrain from laying his hand on his heart and exclaiming, “ Ah! madam, if Heaven had only made

you a negress, you would have been irresisti. ble !” And the same beauty, when travelling among the Swiss Cretins, heard several of the men ejaculating, How handsome she is ! what a pity that she wants a goitre !” Plain women were formerly so common, that they were termed ordinary, to signify the frequency of their occurrence; in these happier days the phrase extraordinary would be more applicable. However parsimonious, or even cruel, nature may have been in other respects, they all cling to admiration by some solitary tenure that redeems them from the unqualified imputation of unattractiveness. One has an eye that, like charity, covers a multitude of sins ; another is a female Sampson, whose strength consists in her hair ; a third holds your affections by her teeth ; a fourth is a Cinderella, who wins hearts by her pretty little foot ; a fifth makes an irresistible appeal from her face to her figure, and so on, to the end of the catalogue. An expressive countenance may always be claimed in the absence of any definite charm: if even this be questionable, the party generally contrives to get a

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reputation for great cleverness; and if that too be inhumanly disputed, envy itself must allow that she is excessively amiable."

Still it must be acknowledged, that however men may differ as to the details, they agree as to results, and crowd about an acknowledged beauty, influenced by some secret attraction, of which they are themselves unconscious, and of which the source has never been clearly explained. It would seem impossible that it should originate in any sexual symptoms, since we feel the impulsion without carrying ourselves, even in idea, beyond the present pleasure of gazing, and are even sensibly affected by the sight of beautiful children : yet it cannot be an abstract admiration, for it is incontestable that neither men nor women are so vehemently iinpress. ed by the contemplation of beauty in their own as in the opposite sex. This injustice towards our own half of humanity might be assigned to a latent envy, but that the same remark applies to the pleasure we derive from statues, of the proportions of which we could hardly be jealous. Ugly statues may be left to their fate without any compunctious visitings of nature : but our conduct towards women, whom we conceive to be in a similar predicament, is by no means entitled to the same indulgence. We shuffle away from them at parties, and speak to the other end of the dinner-table, as if their features were catching; and as to their falling in love and possessing the common feelings of their sex, we laugh at the very idea. And yet these Parias of the drawing-room generally atone, by interior talent, for what they want in exterior charms ; as if the Medusa's head were still destined to be carried by Minerva. Nature seldom lavishes her gifts upon one subject : the peacock has no voice ; the beautiful Camellia Japonica has no odour; and belles, generally speaking, have no great share of intellect. Some visionaries amuse themselves with imagining



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